Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Turkey Bowl

Save St. Saviour, tradition The Turkey Bowl is an endangered species.

        Unless money is raised and enrollment increased, the annual Thanksgiving football game between down-the-street rivals — St. Saviour and St. John the Evangelist — could become extinct.

        The ties forged by four decades of pep rallies, bonfires, parades, ceremonial team breakfasts and official weigh-ins — as well as character-building losses and come-from-behind victories — would unravel.

        The rituals of home and family that give a sense of community to tradition-bound Deer Park and Sycamore Township would vanish.

        Fans of the two Catholic grade schools can chew on the concept of life without the Turkey Bowl during Thursday's traditional homecoming.

        They can mull it over during the 40th Turkey Bowl at 10:30 a.m. at Deer Park High School Stadium.

        They can talk about it with old friends at halftime.

        They can discuss it as they go back to Mom's house to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.

        Simply put, St. Saviour needs more money and students.

        The immaculately maintained 54-year-old school must raise $100,000 by next September. Enrollment needs to grow from 123 today to 175 for the 2003-04 school year.

        Failure could spell the end for the school. And the Turkey Bowl.

Save St. Saviour

        Failure is not in Principal Mary DeBrunner's plans.

        “Closing is always possible for a school with low enrollment,” she noted.

        “But it's not going to happen here. We've formed a "Here We Grow Again' committee. Our alumni are very charged up.”

        Mary DeBrunner counts herself among the alumni. She graduated in 1955 — when the school had 1,000-plus students.

        Gail Sandmann, retired parish secretary, attended the school when it opened in 1947. She graduated in 1950. Her classmates numbered 19.

        Both women noted changes in the neighborhood. And the school's constant commitment to learning.

        “This used to be almost like country,” Gail said. “... The school was built on an apple orchard.”

        Fields gave way to homes with kids. They filled the school. When they grew up and moved on, their parents stayed. Enrollment declined.

        Then, as now, the school provided “traditional education and individual attention,” the principal said.

        She noted with pride that more than 50 percent of St. Saviour's recent graduates made their high school honor rolls. “For the last five years, one of our former students has been the valedictorian for Moeller or Mount Notre Dame.”

Spread the word

        The accomplishments of the school's graduates leave the principal feeling “confident” the goals will be met.

        David Chachoff, a parent of two St. Saviour students, and a “Here We Grow Again” committee member is confident. But concerned.

        “The next two years are going to be tough,” he said. But success will come because of “the school's strong-willed parents.”

        They can save St. Saviour. And the Turkey Bowl.

        They just must persuade the school's alumni to do more than come back once a year for a football game. They need to go back to the old school.

        And bring their children with them.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail


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